OM Near East's missionary retreat
I’ve never considered myself an artist, but when my team started preparing for the OM Near East field retreat—a weekend gathering held once every two years for the approximately 150 OM workers in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria—I suddenly found myself painting large-scale citrus fruit for the stage décor.
Since coming to the mission field one year ago, I’ve been meditating on God’s repeated promise of making all things new, so I suggested “fresh” as the theme for the field retreat. My team leader agreed. Thus, we began brainstorming ways to make the retreat fresh and fun, as well as refreshing for the OM workers.
1. Decoration, decoration, decoration.
Because both my supervisor and I are detail-oriented, the theme evolved into an elaborate colour scheme, complete with bright lemon logos adorning programmes and other written materials. For weeks, she stayed up late sewing beautiful fabric bunting, alternating triangles of lime green and lemon yellow, with splashes of grapefruit pink. Two days before the retreat, I spent all afternoon frosting some 450 lemon-shaped cookies another team member had baked, and of course, we all stayed up late the night before everyone arrived, setting up the stage, hanging color-coordinated lanterns and positioning the stage fruit.
2. Exciting adventure.
Although almost one third of the retreat attendees were new to the field, my team wanted to provide an exciting adventure for workers who were returning to Lebanon. Amazingly, we worked out logistics for everyone to visit the biblical Cedars of Lebanon, where God gifted us a window of sun during a weekend of rain. Being immersed in nature amidst ancient trees refreshed many of us who usually spend our days below the smog line, caught in the constant chaos and city noise of the Near East.
Heading back from the cedars, we stopped at a small wood handicraft vendor, an acquaintance of my team leaders. Field members and guests purchased key rings and wooden trays, crosses carved from cedar wood and other small mementoes to remember the trip. Before leaving, the Near East personnel officer took a moment to chat with the shop’s owner.
“God sent you to us today,” the shop owner explained. “We have a financial obligation, and we didn’t know how we were going to pay it. Today, we have enough money to pay. Thank you so much for coming.”
3. Worship and teaching.
To remind us all why we’re on the field, we invited York, director of marketing with OM USA, and his daughter Maddie to lead us in worship at the retreat. Over the course of the weekend, we sang songs in both English and Arabic, allowing local workers and guests to praise God in their heart language. York chose “As Long as You are Glorified” for one of the weekend’s theme songs—a plea for God’s will to be done in our lives, no matter what situation we are facing.
Julyan and Lenna, faithful servants and overseers of OM West and Central Asia (WACA) for many years and now ambassadors for OM’s Muslim Ministries, also joined us for the weekend, bringing refreshment through God’s Word, reminding us to find inspiration through the Holy Spirit and Scripture, and to find our rest in the Lord.
By the time all the retreat attendees loaded into buses for the airport, my team had mostly dismantled the decorations, removed signage from doors, and cleaned up the creative space we’d outfitted for artists to enjoy during the weekend. Normally, my team works independently, our individual field ministry support roles rarely requiring collaboration. At the retreat, though, I loved seeing the little details come together, especially how each person on my team worked tirelessly through the weekend, coming together for the event and helping the rest of the field enjoy the FRESH experience and REFRESHMENT for the continuing work ahead.